Online Video Conferencing/Chat

Brief Description: 

Video conferencing, also known as a video teleconference or video chat, refers to conducting a meeting between two or more participants at different sites by using computer networks to transmit audio and video.

Possible Instructional Uses: 
  • Offer office hours to off-campus students
  • Facilitate group interaction or conduct student meetings
  • Teach class while out-of-town (e.g. attending academic conferences)
  • Team-teach with instructors at another university
  • Connect students to native speakers in language classes
  • Interview experts/guests
  • Collaborate with classes at other universities
  • Virtual "field trips"
Some Available Platforms: 

LSA Instructional Support Services supports Videoconferencing and Chat for a variety of purposes. If you are part of LSA, click here to learn more about your options. If you prefer a more DIY approach, the following are some good options:

  • Skype
  • Google+ Hangouts
  • Apple Facetime
  • MeetingBurner
  • Vyew
  • Adobe Connect (available only to UM Health System)

Tips for Using Online Video Conferencing/Chat Tools

Before you start

  • Have clear goals for video conferencing. For example, connect guest lecture(s) closely to the course goals and learning activities and arrange a debrief of a guest lecture if needed.
  • Have a back-up plan in case things do not go as expected (e.g. power outage or disrupted Internet connection).
  • Understand how to use the video conferencing tool or equipment well and be aware of where to get technical support quickly when needed.
  • Practice your speaking speed and volume. Speaking to students through a video-conferencing tool is not the same as speaking to students in a face-to-face class. Practice and feedback will help you get it right. Also, keep in mind that there can be lag and delays. Don't cut students off while they are speaking.

Important considerations

  • Pay attention to room lighting. You should have a source of light coming from behind your computer or webcam that will illuminate you. Avoid using the brightness of your computer monitor as it tends to turn you a shade of blue. You should also turn off any lights that are directly behind you, since they will make you appear too shadowed.
  • Adjust your camera angle. Try positioning your webcam at eye-level and make sure it is not tilted at an angle. Tilted webcams may cause some of your features to look larger than you normally see when you look in the mirror.
  • Test and adjust your audio settings beforehand.
  • Make eye contact by looking directly into the camera.
  • Use a headset or headphones to avoid echo. Using a headset will automatically reduce background noise from your computer. It will also allow you to be closer to the microphone, which further reduces interferences.
  • Make sure you hang up and turn off your webcam when finished. Embarrassing things could happen when you do not hang up properly or your webcam remains on. 

In the classroom

  • Follow good practices of face-to-face classroom instruction while teaching via video conferencing tools. For example,
  1. Review the face-to-face course, lecture, and examples to make sure they work well when taught to students remotely.
  2. Think carefully about how to interact with students and design activities that can promote interaction in a video conference setting.
  3. Gather frequent feedback about the course content and technology use from students.
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